Why you shouldn’t drink water while you eat

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Posted November 16, 2011


I am trying to remove the words “should” and “shouldn’t” from my vocabulary, and instead replacing them with “could”, but for the purposes of this article I feel it’s appropriate. Drinking while you’re eating is not a good idea, and essentially it’s something most of us will benefit from refraining from.

It wasn’t so long ago that I found it almost impossible to make it through a meal without relying on a mouthful of water to wash down every bite, so I understand the resistance you might feel upon hearing this idea. However, this also means that I have experienced the benefits of ceasing hydration during meals.

If I’m going to go around telling you that you shouldn’t enjoy your meal with a glass of water, I need to give you a reason why. So, here it is: It screws with your digestion.

When you’re settling in to enjoy a meal, your stomach – being the clever little worker that it is – will start releasing the exact amount of gastric juices that are needed to digest the food you’re shovelling into your system. However, if liquid is going in as well, not only does the water dilute the digestive juices, but water is absorbed through the walls of the stomach until the contents are concentrated enough for the digestive juices to act. When this happens, the concentrated substance ends up being thicker than the food your stomach was expecting to accommodate for and you won’t have enough gastric juice to break it down. This leads to undigested food being absorbed through the stomach wall and sneaking into your system.

Cold water, especially, is a problem. Drinking cold water during meals can slow digestion and may cause cramping if you are particularly sensitive.

If the idea of skipping water during meals all together is too much to handle, slowly wean yourself off it by just allowing small sips of room temperature water. Aim to hydrate about 15 to 20 minutes before you eat, and then try not to drink too much water until about 30 minutes to an hour after you’ve finished your meal.

With all of the rules we have floating around in the wellness world, this isn’t something to worry yourself sick over. You don’t have to treat it as gospel. However, if you do experience bloating, cramping or gas after eating, making this slight change could do you the world of good.

 

Sources:

http://bodyecology.com/articles/food_combining_optimal_health_and_weight.php

http://www.naturalnews.com/029668_digestion_tips.html

Have you experimented by not drinking while you eat? Have you noticed any differences in your digestion? Do you think this is something you could/should have a go at?

 

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Suzanne says:

Aloha from Hawaii, Jess:

Great post, especially for people who suffer bloating or digestive issues — cutting out fluid while eating can make a huge difference, I know that from personal experience. And now to my question from one of your previous blogs:

In your November 10 reply about coffee enemas you wrote, “Another trick we discovered in Mexico is to add 8 oz of chamomile tea to the bucket as well, to soothe things down there if you’re doing four or five enemas a day.”

Question: Do you add 8oz of chamomile tea to the bucket which already has 32oz of coffee enema in it, or is the coffee a separate enema?

Thanks so much for all that you do.

Jess says:

Hi Suzanne, great to hear from you! We add 8oz coffee, 8oz chamomile tea and then 16oz water so that the solution is still 32oz all up. If doing 24 oz, we would just add 8oz water. x

Linzy says:

yay! i always harp on to my family about not drinking while eating… i’ve NEVER been able to do it and couldn’t understand why anyone did! on the odd occasion i did try it, i could literally feel it watering things down in my tummy and not doing what it was supposed to… my family would sometimes say to me “silly linzy! it’s to wash the food down!” – but all that means to me is that you haven’t chewed your food up properly! :D

eating time is for eating – makes perfect sense to me… thanks so much for the article Jess! x

Julie says:

Hey Jess, I guess a question might be “what about smoothies” and “soup”. By drinking water with food is it not like a smoothie or soup down there??

Claire says:

Hi Julie, and Jess,

I’m wondering the exact same thing as I sit here sipping a smoothie while reading this article.

Jess says:

Hi Julie! When I heard this rule I initially thought the same thing. However, smoothies and soup and basically predigested food so they are completely absorbed by our bodies. If you’re having a smoothie or soup with a meal, it’s a good idea to consume them first, before the bulk food goes in. Drinking water with a meal is different to having a smoothie or soup because the water dilutes the gastric juices and prevents adequate digestion rather than helping the process. Does this make sense? x

Tango says:

Hi Jess,
When my family and I came to the US, we were very confused about why everytime we went to a restaurant the table would be filled with tall glasses of iced water. LOL…with our limited English at the time, we tried to argue that we did not order any water.
Anyway, we, my family and I, never drink with our meals. Always have tea or coffee after the dishes are done. I just don’t feel right when I eat and drink at the same time.
Thanks for posting this. I’ve said it to friends before, but am usually ignored.
Love your blog, btw :) I hope that you are feeling well!

Jo says:

As we should be eating high water content/high fibre foods like whole fruits and vegetables, wouldn’t it make sense to drink some lukewarm water with meals, particularly if they are processed foods, salty or dehydrated/cooked (which we should minimize anyway). And as Julie noted, what about smoothies? :P

It seems to me like this isn’t a black or white issue. Although the gastric juices point and all the anecdotes are compelling.

Kristen says:

What an interesting read! I ALWAYS have water or a drink with my meals (breakfast lunch and dinner..and snacks!) I also have IBS and have a lot of digestive troubles. I’ll try giving up drinking with meals and see if that helps.

Thanks Jess – love you blog x

Viv says:

Hi Jess,
Just thought I would say Hi from Mexico! Weve been here for a week now and the time has flown by,not hard I suppose with all the juices,enemas and amazing food.I am feeling a lot calmer and more positive than when I arrived so its great to be in the land of the living once again! The people are really lovely and I know when we return home I will miss the security not to mention the constant supply of juices!I hope to keep in touch with other Gerson Persons when I go home as I am keen to learn about everything I need to know .Thanks for your inspiration
Love Viv xxxxxxxxxxxx

Tania says:

Everyone is different but I must say for me, not drinking with meals has had a hugely positive impact on my digestive system!! It has totally transformed me from being bloated and gassy (and driving myself insane trying to figure out what I was “intolerant” to) to being comfortable, sated, just – feeling GOOD after eating.

Great post and I really encourage anyone who struggles with digestive discomfort to give this idea a go :)

amy southorn says:

Very good advice! It makes a huuuge difference for me not drinking during and too close to meals. I have very low stomach acid and find even consuming a big bowl of broth/soup with something heavier like meat/starches will cause a lot of discomfort. I do also take Beet-Derived Hydrochloric Acid to help further. I used to get these crazy urps (I think thats what their called) and a lot of pain and bloating all the time when I watered my meals down! Not fun but no more.

Nicola says:

I agree with you ladies! I find not drinking with my meal has worked best for me and my digestion since I was a little girl. However I still have a glass of wine with my meal when the opportunity arises. :)

Julia says:

Jess,

I have heard this before but I was wondering if drinking hot/warm herbal tea during meals has the same effect as drinking water with meals?

Jess says:

Hi Julia, yes I think it probably would have the same effect. I believe the tea would still dilute the gastric juices in the same way as plain water. It would be much easier on the system than cold water, but if you have digestion problems I would steer away from consuming any liquids with meals. x

Cass says:

Hey Jess, what about cereal and milk?

Jess says:

Hey Cass! Same deal with cereal and milk. However, both of those items have their own digestion dramas so I tend not to recommend them by themselves or together. :)

Diana says:

Thanks for this post! I don’t like to drink water with meals unless a glass of wine or martini:)
I will pass this on to my husband who looks at me funny when I turn away water at restaurants.

Caroline says:

Yes this is true! I learned this from my ayurvedic doctor and have no longer gas or bloating. They know everything about digestion. Thanks for a great post!

Pam says:

Hi Jess. I think that you take quite a few supplements, and I believe some of them before meals. Could you please talk about how you schedule taking your supplements, some of which are probably supposed to be taken with meals? Thanks! Pam

Jen says:

Pam (and Jess), I was gonna ask this exact question. I’m taking a multi-vitamin that suggests you take it with your meal. Is there any way around this? Or rather, because they’re asking this, is it even a good thing to be taking multi-vitamins in the first place? Arggh, there’s way too many different opinions on so many health matters it’s really hard to make sense of it all.

Jess says:

Hi Pam, I take digestive enzymes, colostrum and acidoll before my meal; milk thistle, niacin and thyroid during the meal; and then CoQ10 and pancreatin after the meal. I don’t consume water with them though, mostly just juice before and after, and I have my during meal pills with my soup. If you do need to have water with supplements, you should only need small sips any way and this is okay.

Amanda says:

Your post hasn’t actually demonstrated why ” This leads to undigested food being absorbed through the stomach wall and sneaking into your system.” is a bad thing. Please explain.

I always drink copious amounts of liquid with every meal and every snack. In fact I drink my 2L per day easily. Maybe even 3-4L. I never get stomach cramps, bloating etc. So what’s the big deal?

Mike says:

I’m with Amanda on this one. How were you able to write an informed article when your sources were two sentences from a Dietary store-post and one paragraph from a “Six simple tips” article.

belal says:

In our previous article ‘Top flop food combos you should avoid‘ Dr NK Sharma explained which food combination is right and which isn’t. In this article, he explains why it is important to eat certain foods separately without any accompaniments.

Kirstee says:

Hi. Undigested food can not be absorbed by the stomach lining. This is completely false information. Firstly the stomach only produces enzymes that break down the protein in your food. Carbs, fat, vits and minerals are passed whole (although squished from mechanical digestion – this is the movements of the stomach not the chemicals) into the intestine and are broken down and absorbed here.

Because the stomach only breaks down proteins from your food, it also can only absorb the proteins. However. Undigested food could NEVER be taken into your body through the walls of your stomach. This is because the little holes in the stomach that absorb protein are so small that only singular amino acids can fit through (amino-acids are the building blocks of protein)

There is NO WAY undigested food can get into your body. This is very basic biological knowledge. It is A level Biology. Read any information on the way the stomach works and this will be confirmed to you.

However i am not saying that drinking water whilst you are eating is necessarily good for you. – It may have some other negative effect, but not the one i found here.

Fox says:

Thanks for that clarification! Still an excellent article! The more knowledge we all share with each other the better :) – the medical, public health and scientific establishment certainly isn’t going to do it for us…(despite all the gradually-accumulating studies… :S) no – we OURSELVES have to put 2 and 2 together, for our OWN good. so thanks.

Damian says:

Excellent article ! Thank you so much ! Helped me and my family get rid of our gut problems. Keep up the good work Jess :)

tljkran says:

Couldn’t this be true for any liquid?? It seems most people would rush to eat their food just so they can drink something if they knew this to be true, which is also bad for digestion. It must depend on the person, because I’ve drank water with food my whole life and my digestion system seems to work too good if ya know what I’m sayin’!!! Water helps you feel full faster, resulting in less food consumed. I learned that in college and college professors can’t lie.

JD says:

This doesn’t seem correct. For starters water is the universal solvent, more substances dissolve in it than any other chemical. Also, solid food is made up of water, if water is bad for digestion then you’d be advocating staying away from foods with a high water content, namely fruits and vegetables.

Alyssa says:

My husband suffers from GORD and actually has to drink water with meals, otherwise he gets bad acid reflux. I, on the other hand, enjoy a nice glass of red or two.

Interesting article, but I would have liked a bit more detail. Particularly, how does undigested food get absorbed through the stomach wall, where does it go and what happens then?

Alyssa says:

I am also curious about what happens to high water content foods. According to Jess, the water you drink during a meal gets absorbed through the stomach wall, so if you eat something like, say, a watermelon, which is 90% water, does that mean 90% of the watermelon gets absorbed through the stomach wall? And would this be considered an ‘undigested food’? This is all rather confusing and somewhat counterintuitive.

I read about this many years ago and I tried it and felt better digestion doing it this way. Also after I am done eating, I will go by how I feel before I start drinking liquids. Most of the time I will not start drinking anything until 2 hours after I am done eating.

Self Similar says:

From the Mayo Clinic

“There’s no concern that water will dilute the digestive juices or interfere with digestion. In fact, drinking water during or after a meal actually aids digestion. Water and other liquids help break down food so that your body can absorb the nutrients. Water also softens stools, which helps prevent constipation.”

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/digestion/AN01776

Kapil Garg says:

Is it beneficial to drink warm water after meal

Stella Igena says:

thank u for lettin’ us know,i now know the risk,i will try to stop that habit.

Interesting article. Can you please clarify one point for me? All enzymatic activity in your body functions optimally in a hydrated, aqueous solution. This means that our bodies absolutely need H2O in order to carry out biochemical reactions (this is a fact I have learned in Biochemistry courses). I don’t understand how digestive enzymes, or any enzymes for that matter, can do their job properly otherwise.

It makes sense that diluting an acid would reduce its activity levels. And this is true in test-tube experiments. But our digestive enzymes were designed to work in aqueous solutions. Which, although goes against what you would observe in a test tube, living creatures are not test tubes.

Thanks.

Rob says:

Yes, it benefited me a lot. My stomach and overall health imprvoed by simply following the below water rules:
1. As soon you wake-up drink 1 liter of water on empty stomach.
2. Drink 1-2 glasses of water 30 mins before every meal.
2. No water during the meal.
3. After 2 hours of a meal drink 2-3 glasses of water.
4. Keep drinking water every 15-30 minutes until next meal. No snacking in between.
5. In a 24-hour period drink at least 4 liters of water.

Mike Williams says:

By doing this and helping your digestive system, does this mean it can help lose weight?

Arnaz says:

is this true? because there is others web who tell you to drink water 2 hours after meal. this is confusing, which one to follow and good for digestion?i want to make my digestive system better

and, how about drinking soup? or any other beverages?is it the same as water?

Ali says:

I am definitely going to try this! I have a very sensitive digestive system. And I always bloat after eating. And I always drink a big gulp of water after each bite. I think this might just be my answer! One question, does this include all liquids? What I’m getting at is, can I drink a glass of wine with a meal? ;)

Jack says:

For months now I’ve been getting an upset stomach. It started off with a stomach bug last September and since then I’ve just been having issues. This is when recently I’ve wondered if it’s acid reflux.

When reading upon a forum the other night on acid reflux, It mentioned to not drink during meals as it’s putting too much pressure on your stomach. And to take sips if necisary otherwise just drink Inbetween meals.

Anyway tonight with my evening meal I didn’t drink throughout eating. And so far I don’t feel full and bloated like I have been recently. It’s too early to tell if it will help with my stomach problems and or acid reflux but I’ll definitely report back on here in a few weeks time if it has helped!